I’ve heard that people want the rest of this story, and since it has no real ending, I’ll tell you where we’re at right now as well as I can. I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell it without invading my son’s privacy too much. I haven’t really figured out a great solution to that problem, but I do feel a need to own up to a little bit of parental cluelessness.
After meeting with the education director (equivalent to the assistant principal at most schools), I started to realize some things. First was that Jasper really did bring much of the negative attention he got onto himself. This will be a blasphemous thing to say in the realm of bullying, but I believe it to be the truth. Second, was that he was really angry, but not necessarily because he was being bullied. Jasper sat in the director’s office and talked about these girls through clenched teeth, in a raised voice, glaring at the director.
He talked about how furious they make him in basketball practice because they talk to each other while the coach is giving directions. When she asked if he could ignore it he said he couldn’t . She asked if he could move to another part of the gym. His response was a moment of clarity for me. “The coach can put me in a different line, but then someone in that line will make me mad. He can’t keep me away from everyone!” The director and I looked at each other and then at Jasper to hear if he was listening to himself. He wasn’t.
The director asked if he couldn’t let the coach make the corrections and he threw up his hands, “The coach doesn’t do anything! If he tells them to be quiet, they just do it for a few minutes then they start talking and giggling again.” I asked if they were talking to him, or about him. They weren’t. “Well Sometimes they do. But they’re just always talking.”
I gently suggested that the fact that there weren’t enough corners in the gym to separate him from everyone who made him mad, might be a hint that the problem was his and not all the other kids’, or the coach’s. He didn’t buy it. We have been having the conversation on an almost daily basis about focusing on what you can do differently, not on what other kids should do differently.
The director excused him after a little more talk and broke the news to me, “Tomorrow we are sending contracts out for next year to invite students back. We can’t send one out for Jasper. I’d like to give it another month, but at this point he’s a really negative force in the school, ” They’ve always made it clear that the school is not equipped to deal with behavior problems, only learning ones.
The next day, he came to me puzzled about a kid in carpool who had snubbed him. I drive the car pool a couple days a week and I had come to dread his irritable snappy attitude. The other kids did too. So when he said, “David was really kind of rude to me today.” I had to break the news to him just as it was dawning on me. “David was rude to you because you are mean and snappy to everyone in the car pool. You’re mean to everyone including the driver.”
I was getting emails from teachers about his argumentativeness, and I was generally bummed out. We had an appointment with his psychiatrist just to check up. He was obviously down when we went there and had lost weight. She talked with him and with me and we decided to eek up his current anti-anxiety/anti-depressant drug.
About a week after raising that dose, he started to say that kids were nicer to him at school. He laughed out loud at silly things that kids in car pool said, and his teacher commented about how much less he was arguing in class. We didn’t tell anyone the change we had made, but it clearly made a difference. Around here, I noticed that he has started to laugh again. It’s amazing to me how we were able to slide back into having a depressed angry kid and willing to blame everything around us, including the school. I’m thinking about writing a second letter backing down just a smidge.
I still say there are things they could have dealt with better, but the problems Jasper was having were going to follow him to any school he went to. His depression (that’s the best name they have for it)has always manifested itself as anxiety and irritability, and his slide back into it was just as natural as can be. It wasn’t until I saw him out of my own context (in the office at school) that I realized he was troubled from the inside. And it wasn’t until he started feeling better that I realized how bad it was.
I feel very lucky that we stumbled on a medication that really works for him and that raising the dose was enough to pull him out of his funk. I was starting to run out of parenting tricks and get very depressed myself.